The BMMO S21 was designed by BMMO as a crew operated semi-coach vehicle, for use on longer distance stage carriage services in the week and coach duties at weekends. The basic body design was based on the BMMO CM6 Motorway coach with six-bay construction, built to the maximum size permitted for single-decker buses at the time of 36′ 0″ long by 8′ 2½″ wide. A BMMO S17 style windscreen, entrance door and emergency window were fitted, but unlike the type S17 the type S21 had a single piece rear window and no rear destination number box.
The body work on all type S21 vehicles was fitted in-house by BMMO at their Central Works, Carlyle Road and constructed with fibreglass roof, front and rear, as per the type S17. The S21 also featured a new curved front and rear dome and, in some people’s opinion, highly attractive front grille design. Unfortunately the grill design was unique to the S21 and was not perpetuated on later BMMO built vehicles. Two-door luggage compartments at the rear, additional polished aluminium brightwork under the windows, plus metal scroll coach style “Midland Red” fleetnames at the front, side and rear were also fitted. The side windows were fixed and ventilation was by forced air through two roof scoops at the rear.
The mechanical specification was almost identical to the BMMO S17 with a BMMO 10½-litre engine and SCG semi-automatic four-speed gearbox. Braking was also the same as the S17 with disc brakes all round and a transmission handbrake. Internally the vehicles were equipped with 49 blue coloured semi-coach vinyl seats.
Note: For the younger generation…
36′ 0″ approximately equals 10m 97¼cm, and 8′ 2½″ approximately equals 2m 50cm.
Production began in 1967, with the entire batch of 30 vehicles being fully constructed at BMMO’s Central Works in Birmingham. At this time the company had recently appointed a new General Manager, with J.W. Womar taking over from Donald Sinclair. Unfortunately this coincided with a much troubled period for the previously highly successful company, which as much as anything was borne out by a confused livery period for Midland Red. Early examples of the type S21 were delivered to their depots in red with black roof but vehicles after fleet number 5860 were delivered with a less attractive maroon roof.
From 1970, BMMO started to convert the type S21 to one-man operation, with seating modifications to B49F, B51F or B53F on a small number of vehicles vehicles taking place at the same time. Seats taken from early examples of BMMO S23, fleet numbers 5916–5923, were used for these conversions as these vehicles had been fitted with non-standard seats from new. The S21 seats so displaced were later fitted to type LC9 Leyland Leopard Coaches, fleet numbers 5829 and 5837, with the seats removed from these two vehicles being used to upseat the rest of the batch of LC9 coaches to C40F from C36F.
Also in the early 1970s, the rear disc brakes on the type S21 were converted to drums due to excessive pad wear. Vehicles were modified at Carlyle Road works and oddly some vehicles ended up being fitted with drum brakes on the front as well. Originally very small number boxes had been fitted to the type S21 but later bigger boxes were fitted at overhaul, however a small number of vehicles somehow escaped this modification!
The S21 was arguably the most attractive design of BMMO saloon and remained so when NBC livery was introduced. They were extremely comfortable and used extensively on long distance stage carriage work as well as coach duties when new.
Fleet number 5878 (registration number LHA878F), which spent its last few years at Rugby depot became a bit of a celebrity attending many rallies, always immaculately presented. When it was withdrawn some of the staff at Rugby purchased it and after further rallying it changed hands and is now in need of heavy restoration. The only other two remaining examples of the type S21 are fleet number 5870 (registration number LHA870F) which is now preserved at Aston Manor museum with an incorrect black roof, and fleet number 5868 (registration number JHA868E) at Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Trust (“The Transport Museum”—BaMMOT), Wythall, which has the correct maroon roof.
Finally fleet number 5864 (registration number JHA864E) was dumped at Worcester (Padmore Street) depot, when withdrawn and was heavily cannibalised by the Worcester Bus Preservation Group. Without it, it is doubtful that the groups vehicles, fleet numbers 5479, 5901 and 5919, would be in the fine condition they are today!
Certain information in the BMMO S21 section was originally recorded by Arthur Homer, former Carlyle Works body superintendent. Special thanks to Arthur's family for allowing us to use this unique information on this website. Other information in this section has been compiled by Mark Tunstall of the Worcester Bus Preservation Society.